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Friday, August 31, 2012

The Springs: E.R.

When weeknight or weekend call duty rolled around, there were often some interesting learning experiences to be had through the Emergency Room. Not all patients would need x-rays taken but when they did, the doctors liked to make it a time of sharing information with me, too. Our uniforms, with the plain, white cap gave our student status away on first glance. Perhaps that made the trip to the Emergency Room a bit more interesting for them, since most of our doctors liked teaching.

Sometimes the information shared helped me to take better x-rays; but, just as often, the information had nothing to do with x-ray technique or positioning.

For example, when the boy came in with his shoulder dislocated, the doctor, carefully, showed me the proper way to reduce a dislocated shoulder. The teen was able to go to the Radiology Department right next to the E.R. so I didn’t need to drag the 500-pound behemoth out for a portable of his shoulder. The whole time I was working with the injured soccer player, the doctor was instructing me about the injury and treatment of same. The funny thing is, I never forgot what he said. If I had run into anyone with a dislocated shoulder at any time in the next four decades, hey, I was ready! Unfortunately, I never did manage to be on any soccer field when this new skill was needed. Well, unfortunately for me, not the players, that is.

Then there was the Saturday the little girl fell out of her swing, right onto her outstretched palm. Snap! Broken arm just above the wrist. The small arm presented with both bones of the forearm slid to the outside of the arm, straining the skin covering the area.

“Now, just look at that.” The white-haired orthopedic specialist pointed to the break. “Right there is a classic fracture. You can already know it’s going to look like that when the mother phones you. If she says the child fell right on her outstretched palms, you can believe that one of the arms is going to look like that. Classic.”

“Would you like me to bring the portable over, Sir, or can I take her to the Department?” The doctor had already put himself down on the stool next to the exam table.

“How ‘bout you fetch that machine of yours. We can just wait here for you and I can get to know this little gal a bit.” The kid looked pretty frightened behind all those tears, so it was likely a call as much for her benefit as for his. The mother was there but totally silent unless spoken to directly.

Once the films had confirmed the break, the doctor turned his attention back to me. You go ahead and move that thing back out of the room now until we need it again, and I’ll just give Missy here a little deadening. Local is enough for this job, no need for a block. I’ll wait for you before I reduce the fracture.”

When I returned there were, indeed, a few more fresh tears. The mother had elected to step out of the room before she fainted, so I gently took hold of the little girl’s tiny hand. Slowly stroking her back, I listened to the doctor. He was preparing the things he would need for a cast as he unburdened himself.

“They say I’m too old to keep practicing medicine. Well, they’re wrong about that, little lady. You’ll see; I’m as good as I ever was and that’s pretty darn good. Who are those young pups to say I should step aside for them, humph!” The surgeon took hold of the petite wrist with one hand and the area just above the break with his other hand. “Just look at that, will you? In just a snap… “ The sound of a loud Snap! was heard, with the child as surprised as I was. “There you go, Sweetheart, good as new.” It was, too. Perfect alignment of the bones; it didn’t look like it had ever been any other way. “Now, Sojourner, you get that monster on in here again and take another picture of this arm before I cast it. It’s just fine, I know that and you know that, don’t you? But, the goll-darn lawyers need their backsides covered so let’s play their game.” He stepped away from the table, lifted the little girl to the adjacent stool and gently laid her arm flat on the exam table.

The x-ray did, indeed confirm the exact alignment of the two little bones. “There you see a perfect job from this old workhorse. Back the beast off now, will you, but don’t take it out of the room. This cast will be on in a flash and we don’t want to wait on you; we all want to go home, don’t we, Honey?” The little patient nodded, wearing a big smile under her dried tears.

I didn’t learn how to reduce a fractured wrist in a child that morning, but I did learn that even in medicine, the young upstarts were trying to make the seasoned practitioners feel like useless relics. I had not even given a thought to how much that would hurt the docs struggling to stay afloat in their rapidly changing world.

Then, there were those trips over to the Emergency Room that had major shock value. One Friday, right after everyone else had gone home, I ambled on over to the desk of the E.R. The off-hours nurse was fun and always had interesting stories to pass along. My department’s reception desk was in an open area nearby so it was no problem to whip over to catch any phone call directed to that desk. Besides, after-hours calls usually came from the E.R. anyway, so I was already there, right?

In the middle of one gripping saga, I glanced up, catching sight of a man standing just inside the E.R. entrance. He was dressed in workclothes and had, obviously, just come from his jobsite.

“Hello, may we help you, Sir?” My friend stopped talking and turned her swivel seat to the direction of my attention.

“Yeah, well, I hope so. I just got off work and I have a problem.” He did look a bit pale but his problem was not apparent.

“Did you get hurt at work, Sir?” My friend was reaching for the clipboard with forms to fill out for the patient while I continued my questioning.

“Yeah, I did, about half an hour ago. I reckoned it was close enough to closing time that I’d just wait to come here until I punched out.”  He seemed to be trembling a little so I offered him a chair to fill out the form.

“Are you feeling okay? You’re looking a bit pale? Would you like to lay down and have us write on the form for you? You’ll need to sign the form but we can fill it out.” The growing pallor of this man alarmed me. I directed him over to the examination cubicle; and, while the E.R. nurse wrote his answers on the form, I reached up to help him take his jacket off.

“Wait a minute. You might need this.” Pulling away from me, the patient withdrew his right hand from the jacket pocket. There was a bloody object of some kind wrapped up in his cloth handkerchief.

“What’s that?” The nurse and I asked in unison.

The man quickly unwrapped the object as he told us. “It’s my big toe. I cut it clean off today.” Sure enough, his palm held the entire big toe, looking even paler than the patient did.

When the workboot had been carefully removed, the bone protruding up from the foot was clearly seen, in part due to the retraction of the surrounding skin. “Hmmm? Do you think I should take an x-ray of this? I mean, you can see the end of the bone with your eyes; I‘m not sure an x-ray would add anything at this point, would it?”

From the end of the phone line, the on-call surgeon agreed. Since the doctor had not yet left the hospital, the man and his toe were successfully re-united within a couple of hours. X-rays were taken in the Operating Room to confirm alignment and position of pins to hold the bones together until they had time to knit.

Not sure about my E.R. friend, but I was certainly glad not to have had a call while he was in surgery. I needed to lie down a bit, myself, from the shock of seeing that white toe in his hand and the bloody bone protruding from his pale foot. What a way to start a night on-call!

In these last days of my second decade of life, God was, certainly, giving me opportunities to see what life as an adult would be like. No more of the “Wait out here; you’re too young to see this” stuff. It was time to grow up and take my place in the helping profession, even with the occasional blood, guts and gore.

****Have a fun Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Springs: Chemistry = Concert?

Somehow I thought that the radiology program I had enrolled in would let me off the hook with chemistry. Ha, what a joke.  I was beginning to wonder if there was anything for which we didn’t need some knowledge of chemistry. Chemistry was needed in order to understand the chemicals used in manually developing x-ray film, amongst other things. During the regular work day, our films were processed through a machine that did the job, effortlessly, in ninety seconds. However, there were plenty of times when those films had to be processed manually and, we had to admit, it was important to understand the chemical reactions to remember just how and when to dunk the film that had been clipped to the processing frame. The incorrect solution or length of time could ruin the film. No way around it, complaints or not, some knowledge of chemistry was necessary.

We poured over chemistry notes in preparation for the next exam. This next exam was a very special test. The elevation of its status had nothing to do with academics, however. The Chief announced to our class that the person who scored the highest on the next chemistry exam would win a pair of tickets to the Trini Lopez concert slated for the next weekend. It would be a live performance by the entertainer and the seats were in the middle of the third row.

Well, I had not a clue who Trini Lopez might be but, hey, competition? That’s great! I set out to win. There was a good reason to study chemistry, at last.

Should such a proposal be held before us now, we could just go online to see who the entertainer was, right? Nothing like that existed way back in 1969 but, truthfully, it didn’t matter to me who he was. It was the thrill of the competition that energized me, not the prize at the end.

My roommate, Joyce, and I quizzed one another every free minute. I began to realize that she knew the material as well as I did. Hmmm? Would Joyce win the tickets? It was very possible and may just come to who was relaxed enough to spit out the answers more than who actually knew the right answer. Now, I had something else to worry about; would I freeze?

At last, the day of the exam arrived. Soon our mealtime conversations wouldn’t include chemical reactions and equations. I was so nervous all morning until the signal came to head for the classroom… and the chemistry examination.

Before he handed out our test papers, the Chief reminded us of the contest, like any of us had forgotten, duh. I looked at the blank lines and spaces and my heart jumped into my throat. Okay, at least, write your name on the top, I told myself.

I could see Joyce whipping through the problems and questions. I, on the other hand, slogged through each one like walking through a deep, boggy marsh. You can do this, I told myself. Take a deep breath and read the next question. Okay, skip it and go to the next one. Thus passed the two hours until I had written something after each question.

Joyce was delighted to have the test over. Her smile and chuckles at my dragging body accompanied us out of the classroom. My drawn eyebrows and somber expression just managed to increase her joy right into all-out laughter. Well, okay, so what if she had won? She was my best friend so I’d be happy for her. I need not win; the contest had served a higher purpose… to get me to learn the material, right? Oh yeah, sure.

When the results of the examination were announced, I nearly jumped out of my chair. I had won! Only by two points, though; Joyce was a close second. I gladly offered her the second ticket, since she came so close to beating me.

In the end, we did attend the concert and had a great time. The entertainer was very good. He had a lot of energy and talent, really pulling us away from any thoughts of the troubles or difficulties of the week. It was a terrific evening.

I had never imagined that doing well on a chemistry test would ever find me sitting so close to the stage that I could just reach out and about touch the entertainer; but that was exactly the case that weekend so long ago. It remains my best “chemistry memory”, as you might have figured.

What does God have to do with this? Ah yes, I can see your confusion here. The answer is that God understands just when we need something we had no idea we even needed. As I said, I hadn’t heard of this entertainer and, most definitely, had no money to purchase concert tickets in premium seating even if I had. God knew the entertainer and, more than that, He knew just what routine he would perform that evening. So many of his jokes and songs were perfectly fitted for our current situation. I laughed so much and, at one point, we even got to join with him in belting out an old favorite. It was just really a “cut loose” time that helped us go to a world of fun and laughter for a couple of hours. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t benefit from such a diversion now and then. Plus, God, Who knew our finances, saw that this treat was a totally free offering. All we had to do was study hard for a chemistry exam… something we should be doing anyway, right?

Rewarding us for the study effort with such a fun evening is exactly like our understanding God, Whose heart is tender to all those Who call Him Father!

****The Springs: E.R. … Next Post

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Springs: Erasing Demerits

Pulling the extra call duty on weekends for my carelessness had one positive affect: more opportunities to take x-rays and, therefore, more chances to hone my technique. Fatigue began to set in when the weekend duty was combined with the regularly scheduled night call duty, though. I still needed to keep up with my homework, try to sleep enough and, of course, be ready to take an x-ray or two at any given moment from five P.M. - seven A.M. Usually this was not a problem because there had been nights when I was not called. I stayed in the lower bunk of the set placed in the on-call room, uniform at the ready in case of a call from the Emergency Room. There were those nights when it was my alarm clock, not the hospital operator, that woke me up after a full night’s sleep.

Naturally, when trying to work off the demerits, this was not the case. Perhaps it served to really burn the lesson deeply into my being? In any case, the ER had been so busy that I had not slept for four nights. I still had to be attentive to my usual daytime classroom and work duties. Even at nineteen years of age, this was a bit much to ask of my body. The funny thing is that I really thought I could do it if I just focused. Focus on what was being said by whoever was standing at the head of the classroom; don’t let the thoughts wander. Focus on every detail in positioning the patient on the x-ray table and every button on the control panel. It was a bit like functioning in slow motion but it had to be; I was focusing as hard as I could so I didn’t make a mistake.

Imagine my joy when the shoulder film I took of a soccer player during this intense time actually won the “Film of the Month” for the Department! Well, my focusing was paying off with some really good films being produced; but there was, definitely, some complaining about how long it took me to produce them! I did everything in relatively slow motion.

If I could just hold on for one more night call, I told myself on Thursday, I will have cleared all of my demerits and can sleep all weekend. Just one more night. It was not to be.

“Get over here, Sojourner. Climb up on this table. I want to show the upper-class students the technique needed for this new fluoroscopy we will be doing next week. I need a patient; you’re it.” I had been walking by on my way to the workroom when the chief’s command hit my ears. Slowly, of course, I turned towards him.

“Me? Are you talking to me?”

“Well, who else do you have in your pocket? Of course, I’m talking to you. Get up on this table. I need a patient.” I was so short that I had to pull a footstool over to get on to the fluoroscopy table. “C’mon, c’mon. We haven’t got all day, Sojourner. What’s the matter with you? Move it!” I just looked at the Chief and moved it to the center of the table.

As soon as I laid down, I knew I was in trouble. What could I focus on? No one was talking to me; they were talking over me. Focus, focus on what was being said, I told myself. It didn’t matter that I didn’t need to retain anything of what he was saying. It would be a long time before I would be working with the fluoroscopy unit. But, I needed to focus, focus, fo-o-o… cus.

“Sojourner! Hey, turn to your side. C’mon. Turn to your side and do it now!” So far away. I heard a rough, barking voice so far in the distance. It was my name but…? “Move and I mean NOW.” I felt arms turning me to the oblique position and just let myself be moved. The problem was that I could not maintain the position on my own, dropping back like a Raggedy Anne doll as soon as the arms let go of me. “Hey, stop fooling around now.”

“Sir, uh, I think you’ll need to find another patient. I think Sojourner is asleep, Sir.” Now, his annoyance turned to rage and then confusion.

“What do you mean, asleep? This isn’t the place to sleep!” The upper-class students began to chuckle.

“Well, I could not sleep on that hard table but, Sir, the ER has kept her hopping every night for four nights so, well, she hasn’t slept much more than a quick nap since Saturday night.”

“Yeah, maybe we should just turn out the light and let her sleep,” suggested the Senior student. “She’s on call tonight and looks like it would take a pretty big blast to wake her up anyway.”

“I’ll get someone else to take her call. Sojourner. hey Sojourner.” The Chief began shaking my shoulder In an attempt to rouse me from the deep sleep. “C’mon. Get up now and go home. This isn’t the place to sleep. Go home and come back tomorrow.”

“Ye-e-es sir-ir, “I slurred out as I flopped my half-asleep body off the x-ray table. “Good night, Sir.” He reached out to pull me to a standing position before I slumped back down on the floor.

“It’s the middle of the morning, Sojourner. Go home.” I nodded my head, slowly raised my hand to wave good-bye to the others and staggered out of the room.

I had no trouble finding the outside door behind the hospital. Once the cooler air hit me, I stirred to enough alertness to remember just where I was going. I found my room, without any trouble, and slipped on to the bed, fully clothed. When I woke in the morning, however, I was under the covers and properly clad so, at some point, I must have had a brief time of consciousness.

I was totally fine the next morning and had learned a valuable lesson: Focusing will not be enough to override the basic bodily need to sleep, even if one is only nineteen. When the body says “Enough,” it’s enough, period. 

Guess that’s why the Lord put Ecclesiastes 3 in the Bible.

Verse 1: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…”

Okay, it doesn’t precisely say a time to sleep and a time to wake up. Maybe verse 7 could be squeezed in to fit?

Verse 7b: “A time to be silent and a time to speak….”

In any case, it is true, when it is time to sleep, God made our body’s to see that we do!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Springs: Merits/Demerits

“Knock, knock.”

“Okay, I’ll play along. Who’s there?” Joyce was so good to humor me and my jokes that give a big groan to anyone over ten. As she spoke, I moved myself over to the water fountain behind the desk in the workroom.

“John the Baptist!” I declared as I threw sprinkles of water at my friend, who actually laughed.

Suddenly the laughter changed to gasps. Joyce pointed at the desk just to my left. Focusing on the spot where she pointed, I hoped the floor would open up and swallow me. “Did you see that x-ray film on the corner of the desk before you began your joke?”

“I didn’t see it or I wouldn’t have told you the joke now. I did look, too, but just didn’t see it. Man, I am dead meat.” Examining the film closely, the few stray droplets of sprinkled water were clearly evident. Such things are artifacts on x-ray film and can’t be just wiped off. In fact, trying to wipe them off would spread the artifact, not remove it.

“Well, let’s just say that those few merits you have earned so far will be totally obliterated with the demerits you’ll get out of this one joke.” My only hope was that it might be a training film and not one left out like that because a surgeon was soon to walk through the door to check on it.

“Hi, ladies! Got a film here for me?” The expletive that sprung into my mind cannot be recorded here, but it begins with an s.

“We sure do, Dr. Bones. Uh, well, I do hope that it is just a break you are looking for and not something you might need a magnifying glass to see?”

The orthopedic surgeon’s eyes widened and his smile narrowed as he spoke, “Hmmm, what might that mean? Do I look so old to you teenage trainees? You think my eyeglasses won’t be enough?”

“Oh, no! Nothing like that! Er, uh, well… you see, I was telling a joke and it had a bit of water sprinkling in it and well…” I handed him the film, which Dr. Bones snapped up on the view box. Wow, those tiny sprinkles looked like a miniature pogo stick had bounced across the black film.

“Looky here, girls.” Dr. Bones was tapping on the bone highlighted in the x-ray. “Do you se that small, straight line right there?” The surgeon moved his pen away from the film.

“It is so thin and doesn’t really go all the way across the bone, does it?” Joyce hadn’t found it yet so I stepped back to give her a better view.

“No, it doesn’t and that’s what the problem was. This guy’s complained of an aching pain but the other x-ray just wasn’t defined enough to see this miniscule little line.” Dr. Bones pulled the film down and tossed it back on the desk. “Thanks. I’ll call the patient back and we’ll get him fixed up. No harm done, as far as I’m concerned. I’m pretty sure Jim will have your hide for splashing the film, though, but it should help that it didn’t matter as far as the patient goes.” He gave my shoulder a sympathetic pat and winked at me as he walked through the door to the hallway. There was little doubt that his buddy Jim wouldn’t be winking at me when he saw this film.

Indeed, the pile of demerits added to my name for this carelessness made those given for “training mistakes” seem insignificant. Not only that but I was given extra weekend call duty without the usual merits as punishment. Nope, I would never again tell any jokes that needed water for a punch line. I also hoped that I would soon grow out of such spontaneous impetuousness.

*Dr. Bones was not his real name.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Springs: Old Nurses’ Dorm

Unloading my luggage, carrying the bags and boxes of treasures I couldn’t live without up those steep wooden steps, really warmed Curt and I on that cool New Years Day. The dorm room Joyce and I had been assigned was down the hall to the right of the steps. The place was so quiet I wondered if anyone else lived there. Being the holiday, though, we wouldn’t likely know until the break was over for the rest of the trainees. It was the newbie’s who had to be there on January 2.

The rooms of the Old Nurses’ Dorm had been spartanly furnished, with twin single beds, wooden dresser, wooden chair and small desk.  There was also a small closet behind a closed door. I put my things away and set up my Smith Corona manual typewriter on the desk. This high school graduation present from my parents was the latest model and I loved it. No computers or electric portables at that time.

The bathroom wasn’t too far away and had everything essential, though it had been made a very long time ago. One could only hope that the faucet didn’t come off in one’s hand at an inappropriate moment. We never left things on the floor or under the bed either, just in case a pipe broke while we were at the hospital. Flooding seemed to us a real possibility.

The place was so very quiet; we had no idea what we were really in for the day we moved in. The air in the room was a bit chilly, but we didn’t see any kind of thermostat we might adjust. As it turned out, that too, was a non-issue. It was just great to not have to look for a place to live in a city neither of us had ever visited. At least, this building which once housed single nurses, would be home while we got oriented and our feet firmly planted in this new course of study. Having Joyce there, eased the good-bye to Curt, who had to turn right around and head back because his own Winter Quarter of study began that week hundreds of miles from Colorado Springs, or “The Springs,” as we called it.

Early the following morning, Joyce and I fastened our aprons with the strange closures, donned the stiff white, winged caps and headed for the Radiology Department of the hospital. Talk about feeling nervous!

Introductions were made around the conference room and a ton of advice was given. Close to the top of the “never’s” was “Never miss breakfast.” The reasons were numerous but those I retained were the following:  1. There might not be time for lunch and 2. The empty stomach is much more susceptible to the morning’s work dumping the contents of a queasy stomach all over the patient. An empty stomach is not really empty. The growling of the stomach and unfortunate regurgitations will, most definitely, signal the instructors that we have not followed the advice of the chief. Okay, so I’ll need to lift my eight-year ban on eating breakfast and make an exception on hospital days.

The no time to eat thing really was a problem some days; but, equally difficult, were those days when there was time to eat but, well, the menu was hard to swallow. I’m not sure why it was the case, but it seemed like every time I was scheduled to be involved in some kind of surgical thing involving a liver… yes, that’s right, liver and onions were the main course in the cafeteria. So hard to choke down one of my favorite meals on those days.

Included in our first day orientation was the list of things that would earn us “demerits,” as well as those which would earn us “merit points,” with which we could annul some of those demerits. Still young enough to be competitive, I looked forward to working hard enough to add some merits to my record. Things such as having one of the x-ray films I took being selected as the “Film of the Month.” Okay, lofty goal for someone who had only seen the x-ray table from the view of the patient, not the technician. It was more likely that my film would earn me demerits for putting the “right” marker on the “left” side of the film. Demerits were also given for shooting the film with the patient identification label right over that dislocated shoulder instead of in the opposite, empty corner of the film. All of us teased one another, nervously laughing, while hoping we weren’t the first one to pile up a ton of demerits before getting one single merit.

At last, the workday was over. Our first day finished, homework assignments in hand, we headed back to the dorm. It was chilly, snow threatening to fall, but we wanted to walk outside and not take the tunnel to cross from the hospital to the dorm building. Fresh air meant everything after being inside since early morning.

Our chatter was interrupted as we approached our building. The noise was incredibly loud and coming from the lower level of our dorm building. Ah-ha, our dorm rooms had been built over the hospital laundry. The quiet returned only after their work day ended.

Lest we wonder if the principle taught in elementary school science was really true, one only had to step into our dorm building to find that, yes indeed, heat does rise. Our rooms were never chilly on days the hospital laundry worked. The rooms were cold on weekends but quite toasty during the weekdays.

We decided to keep an eye out for apartments for rent near the hospital, but we also saw the wisdom in waiting until we had passed the first weeks of study. There was already so much to adjust to and so much to learn. The hospital food was okay and we weren’t in the dorm room all that often to find the heat and noise a real bother. Comfort could wait.

****The Springs: Merits/Demerits… Next post

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sophomore Year: Major Change

Just after Mid-Term Exams, Joyce dropped a revolutionary idea into our dinnertime conversation; I could hear the screeching of brakes on my academic track.

“Have you ever thought about changing schools or career paths?”

“Yeah, I already did, remember? That’s what’s got me tied to chemistry labs until I feel like acid is a normal aromatic scent for any atmosphere.”

“No, I don’t mean a change in majors; I mean a major change. A new school. A whole new type of training. In fact, I mean a totally new city and State.” Hmmm, I was never that fond of change but new adventures, on the other hand… I loved adventure.

“No, I have to say, such a thing had never crossed my mind. Changing majors was a major change for me. I am just not a change kind of person, you know.”

“Well, listen to this and keep an open mind. Will you do that, at least?” I agreed that I would, at least, hear her out.

Apparently she had a friend who was training to be an ex-ray technician… officially called Radiologic Technician, R.T. I assumed that there were a lot of such programs in hospitals all over America, and likely even in one of the hospitals in this very city. Joyce didn’t mention it and I didn’t ask. The program she was so excited about was located in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The training would be done in a local hospital, with classes and practical experience going on at the same time. That way the students saw the application of what the class work was teaching them. There was even the opportunity to earn an Associate of Arts Degree by taking extension courses from the University of Colorado. (We could apply whatever university credits we earned to those already accumulated at our present university.)  Should the student complete the two-year course, he would be allowed to write the licensing examination. Passing the exam would allow them to qualify for employment as a Registered R.T.(R.R.T.) in any x-ray department of any medical facility.

“This sounds like an interesting proposition here. I wouldn’t mind getting to actually do something besides sit in lectures and work on lab experiments. But, where would we live? Do you know anyone in Colorado Springs?” I don’t remember asking her why Colorado Springs; guess I figured the presence of an Army Post plus the Air Force Academy… all those guys… may have already said it all!

“That’s not a problem. They have an old nurses’ dormitory where the students can stay. We can eat our meals in the hospital cafeteria and there’s even an underground tunnel that connects the dorm with the hospital so we don’t have to go outside in bad weather.”

“Not sure we want to be living with those old nurses but, let’s check into it.” Joyce let me know that it was the building that was old, not the nurses, who, in fact, didn’t live there anymore.

We finished the Fall Quarter, packed up our little apartment so someone else could enjoy renting it, and headed for Christmas with our families. All of the necessary paperwork had been completed and our uniform aprons and cap shipped to our parents’ home.

Yes, I said cap. Back in 1969, nurses weren’t the only female hospital employees wearing those cutesy white caps. To identify the specific field of service, the white caps in the hospital had a variety of colored stripes. For example, as a general rule all over America, the nurses (RN) had a thin black stripe either around the top of the white cap or vertically along one end. Student nurses had another color, such as blue but that depended on the specific hospital; not all used blue for their students. As for the x-ray department? When the course was finished and the student licensed as an R.R.T., there was a thin golden stripe, place vertically on the end flap of the cap. Those of us just beginning had to wear the cap but had no stripe of color anywhere on it.

We didn’t have to put starch in our white buttoned blouses but the white uniform aprons were quite stiff, crackling when we walked. Now, don’t picture Mom’s pretty multi-colored kitchen apron with the tie at the back. Those in Europe may already have the right kind of apron in mind, as such aprons are commonly seen in their hospitals, but I had never seen such an apron before this experience. It had the usual bib-like front thing, but, then, all along the middle of the back, buttons joined the apron... lots of buttons. Of course, it had a number of pockets in the front. We had to wear white nylons and shoes, too.

Fortunately, my mother was an excellent seamstress because the aprons needed a bit of adjustment before being ready to wear. We had been advised to have the uniform buttons exchanged for something that could be taken off for laundering. The hospital would launder our white aprons, adding the prescribed amount of starch, but the aprons had to have the buttons removed because the heat of the laundry’s press melted them off. Never heard of that, but, okay. Off came the buttons. My mother made button holes where the buttons had been and a special connection thing was used to join the two sides of the apron. We had to remember to remove these little closures before each trip to the laundry, being careful to replace each of them in the proper button holes before walking out the door in a clean apron.

We were slated to begin just after New Years Day. I gave Curt the “Man of the year” award for his sacrificial efforts on getting me to Colorado Springs on time. In order to do this, it cost him the American man’s traditional New years day celebration… an entire day of football games. He didn’t see a single one that January 1st… and not a word of grumbling, either. While his friends were hunkered down in front of the television, with all kinds of delightful snacks and beverages, Curt was driving me hundreds of miles away on winter roads. What a trooper!

One verse from Proverbs 16 could have been printed on a banner over the first six months of my 1969.

“A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”(Proverbs 16:9)

My only reason to move to Colorado Springs was to take this x-ray technician’s course. I had no other agenda. I could have taken the same course in so many places all over the States; I had no particular reason for going to Colorado Springs. Well, it would take a few months before I knew why the Springs; but, quite simply, the answer was that God had plans for me. Those plans would be set in motion from Colorado Springs. My life would never be the same again!

****Have a terrific weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sophomore Year: Guys

Looking back on that final year in my teens, I see one area I wish I had taken more seriously, Guys. There were just too many things happening for me to sort through some rather basic essentials, as it turned out. From the senior citizen vantage point, I can say that carrying a full load of academic credits, and sometimes even a bit more, while working eight and a half hours in the evenings, was not the wisest use of time for my young adult life. For one thing, it really put a damper on the social aspects. How can that be bad for the serious student?

The answer is simply this: university for the young adult is not just about studying. It is a time to learn about people. It takes time to get to know someone. I’m not talking about the young people who are not really serious about studying but signed up for university classes in hopes of finding Mr. Right or Mrs. Homemaker. It was so obvious that their potential mate-seeking radar was always working overtime. As a student, I thought their efforts a royal waste of money, but that’s because I took a couple of decades to get it. I had enjoyed a full, extracurricular life in high school but determined not to join all the clubs and focus on studying when I got to university. However, I missed the balance in my black-and-white way of thinking. It wasn’t an all-or-nothing deal. Balance was the key.

Yes, an important reason for university study was to earn a degree in some field; but, equally important, was the fact that the campus was, probably, the best arena to find thousands of young, single people. Many of those students would be like-minded and would widen my horizons if I gave them a chance. They haled from spots all over the country. The truth is that, while I was not going there in order to leave with a ring on my finger, it was a good place to meet a future mate.

In addition to the time-crunch, another major factor was, simply, shyness. Folks back home would find that unbelievable but, out of my element, I was quite shy. I found it hard to meet new people, especially guys. I regret not taking that part of my university education more seriously.

Yesterday’s post described our cute little first apartment and the way the paved driveway curved around and passed our front door. There was a place a bit farther away for parking, but it was also possible to just stop the car in front of the door or kitchen window.

One warm, sunny day just after the Fall Quarter had begun, I heard the sound of a motor zoom up the driveway and stop, directly in front of the screen door. Glancing out the window, I saw a familiar face standing there.

“John Mark! Hello, come in. So you’re back for second year, huh?”

“Yeah, I’m still in Forestry; how ‘bout you? Still Physical Therapy?”

“Nope, I’m Pre-Med now. Found out I was not likely cut out to be a P.T. when watching a film about new techniques to help paraplegics, literally, made me throw up.“

“You’ve got to be kidding!” John Mark was laughing hard, his disbelief obvious. “And, you don’t think you’ll find anything in medicine that will make you throw up, huh?”

“Could be but nothing I know about on this end anyway. Blood, guts and gore haven’t ever bothered me.” Then, I noticed the guy I had tutored in physics the previous year had something in his hand. “So, what ya got there?”

Hoisting up his gift, I saw a six-pack of dark German beer. “Thought you might like a dark, cool one on this hot day. Got a bottle opener?”

Suddenly struck by the fact that I had never given John Mark this address and it was not, exactly, located along the busy street, I puzzled at how he might have found me. “John Mark, where did you get this address? We just moved here a short while ago and I haven’t given anyone this address.” The hand with the bottled brew returned to its former position at his side.

“Yeah well, it isn’t like it’s on any visible pathway either! A guy’s gotta really want to find you to get to this place! I must admit I was just a bit nervous about turning into this driveway. I mean, you can’t see the house from the road at all. I wasn’t sure what was back here.” He was smiling, shaking his head.

“Exactly, so how’d ya find this place?”

Sheepish is the only way to describe his expression as he spoke. “Er, uh, this morning I saw you get into a car and I followed you. I just passed by the driveway and turned around at the end of the lane down there. I drove around a while, then decided to pick up something to offer you to drink. Kind of like an ice-breaker, ya know?”

“Hmmm, John Mark. That was nice of you and I’m glad you’re back this year, but Curt and I are together again. I’m not really interested in other relationships.”

John Mark reassured me that what had ended our period of dating last Spring would not happen again and pleaded with me to give him another chance. (To fill you in, in one long sentence: Our “engagement” had first been made known to me at a special family dinner in a local restaurant; each of the ladies in his family wanted to know the exact wedding date for their own planning.) Half an hour after his arrival at my apartment door, John Mark left with the unopened “dark, cool ones.” It was an entire year before I saw him again on campus.

I regret not giving John Mark a second chance because I know it must have hurt him. I sometimes wonder if he finished his degree and found his Mrs. Homemaker. I knew that I wasn’t it from what I had already experienced with John Mark; but, still, my main reason back then was lack of time to invest in a relationship. He was a really nice guy and, likely, there were others out there, too, but I’d never meet them.

I had known Curt since I was ten years old. He carried the music stand we shared over to the park from the school building. We dated in high school and had “gone steady” for much of our Senior year. We were comfortable with one another. I loved him, but wonder if that “known him since childhood” thing didn’t just make it easier to continue the relationship than to make the effort, invest the time and energy, into a new relationship. It’s always easier to look back than to see things clearly while they’re happening, isn’t it? Especially when one is a whopping nineteen years old!

How grateful I am that our understanding God forgives us of the many things we do in our youth and never holds it up before us! Forgiven is forgiven, period.

If you missed the earlier post about John Mark, the link is below:

****Sophomore Year: Major Change… Next Post

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sophomore Year: Our First Apartment

The second year of study in American universities, as well as high schools, is known as the “sophomore year.” That said, however, the current trend in the US of A says that the term should be “second-year, not sophomore, when referring to university students. Perhaps this long-used term is now considered offensive to the students because when the word is used as an adjective, sophomoric, it means immature, foolish or ridiculous. Others may think this definition is most appropriate for our housing that second year of study. We lived in five different locations that one school year!

Sophomore year was when we were given the option of living in the dorms or living off-campus. My roommate and I were excited about finding our own place to live for the very first time. We planned to look for an apartment as soon as we returned from our summer jobs in Spokane*.

Some of the initial enthusiasm for launching ourselves into new experiences had been… shall we say tempered… by our job-hunting adventures over the summer but, still, an apartment! That was exciting just to consider.

We flipped those classified ads open as soon as the bundle had been thrown on the front stoop. We were ready, notebooks in hand.

The first day was filled with cruising past the listed address to get a quick visual, followed by a phone call to inquire, if it did look as good as the ad suggested. Apartments at the top of the list boasted two bedrooms; those with less than one bedroom (studio) were not put on the list.

It was fun to check out the inside of a number of apartments, but most we couldn’t afford, as it turned out. Okay, let’s widen the search around the university and check on those apartments a bit farther out. Some were still close enough but in such bad repair that we figured we’d spend too much time calling repair people and then trying to get a landlord to pay for the work, naw; let’s move on.

Well, by the time we had a short list from which to choose, there was really only one apartment that was ready for occupancy that first quarter.

Funnily enough, we had driven past the address, never even seeing the apartment that was listed. We thought it was probably something inside the large house whose number was so close to the apartment address. We, definitely, didn’t want to rent something inside a stranger’s home, especially with our work schedules. We’d need to take early morning classes but would be working in the evenings so returning well after most folks were asleep. Not hard to see potential conflict with the landlord, right?

On one pass-by of the house, we caught sight of a paved driveway that seemed to pass behind the building. Hmmm? That’s unusual since most areas behind a house are not paved. Though a  bit nervous, we turned our vehicle off the main road and onto that paved driveway. Sure enough; there was a small building with the driveway looping in front of the entryway door. Interesting.

Consulting the info on the apartment, we were hesitant to phone the owner. It was listed as a “large studio apartment”, so no real bedroom. Plus, it was located a far distance from campus and our work place. Still, it was a curious little building. We wanted to see inside, just for fun and who knew, maybe it was the place just right for us?

The owner lived in the larger house; we’d guessed that right in our initial assumption that the apartment was inside the house, but this would be a good thing, in case we needed something repaired. Wouldn’t be hard to track down the landlord. Crossing the threshold felt a bit like entering a scene in some novel, compared with the places we had visited already that day. So warm and cozy… a wonderful feeling, really.

At first glance one saw a miniature living room, flowered, ruffled pillows casually resting on either arm of the loveseat. To the right, sprouting out of the middle of a circular table, was a shaded pole lamp. A picture hung on the wall. Behind the loveseat, wooden panels were seen as a part of the wall adjacent to the pictured wall. Glancing hard right after stepping through the front door, one was confronted with a full-sized reflection. A long mirror had been affixed to the sliding door of the clothes closet. Opposite the pictured wall, and a few feet from the left side of the loveseat, was the bathroom door. Very close quarters but included everything that one would need.

Glancing to the left when entering the apartment, one saw a little dinette table with two matching chairs, as well as the wall making up the backside of that little bathroom.

Slipping inside just a step or two, while continuing to gaze to the left, we were delighted to see a full-sized, fully-equipped kitchen. Feminine curtains decorated the windows and let a lot of light into the apartment.

It was just darling, from the point of view of two nineteen-year-old co-eds ready to move into their very first apartment. Something missing? Oh yes, the bed. Well, just move the loveseat and pole lamp to the wall next to the front door and fold back those wooden panels. Give a pull and, presto! The large bed, ready to use. Okay, it was a bit of a squeeze to get the closet or bathroom doors opened when the bed was down, but what a great reminder to keep a tidy home, right?

We loved our little home and its size was really not a problem; we weren’t there all that much, anyway. We just moved the two dinette chairs over to the living room when we entertained. Yes, we entertained, of course; we were university students, after all. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, you know… er, maybe Jane, in this case!

Reading Psalm 23 this morning gave me a bit of a chuckle in a couple of places:

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (Okay, it might be a little cramped and somewhat small, but it was all right there in our first apartment. We lacked nothing!)

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, (Our “green pastures” were inside and it was nearly impossible to fall out of that resting place because of the walls but it worked for us.)

He leads me beside quiet waters (located behind the larger house put the apartment far enough back from the busy street that, indeed, it was a very quiet place the Lord had given us.)

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (That verse normally means the place of worship but our little apartment felt like it was the “House of the Lord,” because He found it for us and saw that we discovered it. It was just perfect for a first apartment. It hadn’t made our first choice list but, truly, it should have! God knew that and scratched all the others off the list to get us to this lovely home. I found that, for “all the days of my life” so far, God has proved Himself faithful to follow me with His goodness and love (mercy in some translations.)

(For those finance/business types reading this: It was autumn of 1968, minimum wage was $1.15/hour and the rent on this studio apartment was $92 per month.)

*Posts on the summer jobs in Spokane adventures can be found, beginning with this link:

****Sophomore Year: Guys… Next Post